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Biofuels: Presenting risks and opportunities

Nov 06, 2008

Food and Agricultural Organization’s new publication: The State of Food and Agriculture 2008 says the recent growth in biofuel production is seriously impacting the food security of the world. It argues that biofuels are necessary but appropriate policies and investments need to be put in place.

The State of Food and Agriculture 2008

Publisher: Food and Agricultural Organization, 2008

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The publication explores the implications of the recent rapid growth in production of biofuels based on agricultural commodities. The boom in liquid biofuels has been largely driven by policies in developed countries in support of climate-change mitigation, energy security and agricultural development.

The growing demand for agricultural commodities for the production of biofuels is having significant repercussions on agricultural markets, and concerns are mounting over their negative impact on the food security of millions of people across the world.

At the same time, the environmental impacts of biofuels are also coming under closer scrutiny. But biofuels also offer the opportunity for agricultural and rural development — if appropriate policies and investments are put in place.

In recent years, liquid biofuels for transport based on agricultural commodities have shown rapid growth, driven mostly by policies supporting biofuel production and consumption, especially in some Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

A number of developing countries are also now implementing policies promoting biofuels. Biofuel growth is projected to continue, but the contribution of liquid biofuels to transport energy is, and will remain, limited. Nevertheless, they have a major impact on global agricultural markets, on the environment and on food security.

This new source of demand for agricultural commodities may offer an opportunity for developing countries to harness agricultural growth for broader rural development and poverty reduction. However, there is a risk that higher food prices may have severe negative implications for the food security of the world’s poorest people.

In addition, demand for biofuels could place substantial additional pressure on the natural resource base, with potentially harmful environmental and social consequences.

The main drivers behind policies supporting biofuels have been the objectives of energy security and climate-change mitigation through reduced greenhouse gas emissions combined with a desire to support agriculture.

These concerns are not diminishing. Today, however, the role of biofuels in addressing these concerns, including the appropriate policies to be applied, is coming under closer scrutiny.

Source : FAO
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